Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Decently stirs nostalgia.
The ‘90s were a special time to grow up in. It was the golden age for kids movies. If there was a decade you could choose for the best kids movies – it would probably be a safe choice to choose ‘90s. Any older, and you definitely risk films that don’t translate well for a modern audience, and any newer will be movies that are ultimately forgettable to a younger audience nowadays. The ‘90s, though, provided some of the most memorable and nostalgic movies for children. One of these films, many would recognize, is Casper – based on the very popular friendly ghost book series that began in 1939 and cartoon show in 1945. This is the height of Casper’s history though, in my opinion.
So, what’s a live-action Casper movie all about? Well, it’s about a father and daughter. The father, Dr. James Harvey (Bill Pullman) is a ghost therapist that is searching for his late wife, and his search takes him all across the country – forcing his daughter to leave home and never build a real friendship with anyone. He eventually runs into Casper’s residence, that Casper shares with his three Uncles, Stretch, Fatso, and Stinky – his uncles are pranksters…the usual scary ghost – while Casper is the nice kid. At the house, Casper and the daughter’s friendship blossoms.
You’ll definitely notice some serious Cinderella references throughout the movie. Casper would be Cinderella while his three uncles would be the evil step-mothers. There’s even a party near the end (ball), an angel (fairy godmother), and if that wasn’t enough, they even bring up Cinderella. I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad idea, but at the same time, we lose a lot of originality that the film could have had, because there is a lot of great potential material here that is ultimately ignored.
The origin stuff is really cool, because this is clearly the deepest, and most tone-accurate Casper films to date. This is a very cartoony story, as expected, and the only way to get out of the slump of being a terribly cheesy kids film is to offer some truly deep scenes, and not only does this have deep scenes, it has a good soundtrack which really adds to what we’re watching. Also, the Lazarus machine was a brilliant, unique, and original idea that should have been introduced way earlier in the movie. I understand the friendship part was really important, but it dived way too much into Cinderella territory that it needed something more.
As for the CGI, I was more or less impressed. This is a movie that’s almost 20 years old, and the graphics…aren’t really that bad. They are CGI ghosts, and they are pretty well done, if you ask me. They are more cartoony than realistic, but this is Casper we’re talking about, how else do you honestly expect they’ll be done? For what it’s worth, the ghosts look almost perfect. They have the right amount of transparency, and the things that they do in regards to pranks and jokes…isn’t bad at all. The characters are just good enough to laugh anyways.
The main concern I think people have, is the romantic chemistry that Casper seems to have with Kat (Christina Ricci), which I’m sure to some parents, would seem icky. After all, Casper’s dead, and he’s the friendly ghost, not the romantic ghost. I get it, but I also understand why they did it. Christina Ricci was perfect for the role of Kat – she just seems to be the perfect candidate for someone with a sixth sense…I don’t know what it is…she just has that way about her. The other complaint I have about this movie are the two comedic relief goons trying to get to a buried treasure in the movie. When you think about it, this subplot is completely unnecessary – and ultimately takes away from what good the movie has going for it.
Casper carries quite a bit of nostalgia with it. There are a lot of good messages about friendship, being different, and dealing with loss in this movie that creates a perfect concoction of deepness and drama to blend in with the rest of the goofy stuff.
This resembles Cinderella way too much when it didn’t have to. There was a lot of fantastic material here that is only used as a secondary plot – which is really unfortunate.